Jaylon Smith was supposed to be a high first-round pick in the NFL Draft and sign a contract for something like $15 million guaranteed. Then the Notre Dame linebacker tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl and suddenly he’ll be lucky to be taken in the first three rounds.

According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, teams believe Smith won’t play until at least 2017.

You’ve got to feel for Smith, a great college player (a consensus All-American in 2015) who was one game away from making it to the NFL unscathed but instead will have to spend the first year or more of his pro career rehabbing a brutal injury.

Rapoport’s report wasn’t totally out of the blue. One Tuesday, Smith excitedly tweeted a video of him walking that seemed to indicate he was headed toward a speedy recovery…

…but two days later former NFL team physician David Chao suggested the video wasn’t as promising as it seemed.

Based on Rapoport’s report, Chao’s theory seems to have been correct.

Smith, to his credit, is remaining positive. He spoke to reporters at the combine Friday and was apparently quite optimistic. Via CSN Chicago:

“I’m going to be 100 percent again,” Smith said at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis Friday. ”We just don’t know when.”

“I’m a long-term guy,” Smith said. “I’m going to be a very impactful player for a long time. It’s just getting healthy. That’s really all I can focus on.”

Any time a player destined for NFL millions suffers a devastating injury in college you can’t help but think it’s too bad he spent his healthiest, most productive years playing for free as an “amateur.”

The only good news in this situation is that Smith reportedly took out a pretty big insurance policy to protect himself against exactly this kind of misfortune, so no matter what happens in his NFL career he won’t emerge totally empty-handed.

Hopefully Smith doesn’t slip too far in the draft and makes a full recovery by 2017 or sooner. No one deserves to have such a promising career trampled because of a fluke injury.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.